The Berks-Mont News (

Back to School: Spotlight on curriculum, tech upgrades this year

By Matthew D’Ippolito,

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Students in the Tri County area can expect curriculum and technology changes going into the 2013-14 school year.
For starters, Twin Valley School District is putting the finishing touches on an updated language arts curriculum for kindergarten through eighth grade that aligns it with the Common Core, a national education standards movement that Pennsylvania officially adopted last month.
“We think the Common Core is pretty good stuff, and so we’re certainly going to follow through,” Twin Valley Superintendent Bob Pleis said. “It’s a little more rigorous than the standards we had, and there’s nothing wrong with being more rigorous.”
The district is also adding new courses to its Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) program, including a biotechnology class, environmental science and physiology. The environmental science class will have an opportunity to participate in a field study at French Creek State Park, Pleis said.
The district already has an engineering program called Project Lead the Way, and Pleis said the new courses will fit in well with that focus. He added that the district’s engineering and technology classes give kids a chance to explore their interests for potential career fields.
“We’re getting more kids who are saying, ‘I want to try engineering, I want to see what this is like.’ I think it’s really cool to be able to go in and design something that might help out people later on,” he said.
Eastern Lancaster County School District students can also expect changes in their curricula. ELANCO Superintendent Bob Hollister said the district is in its second year of a major curriculum update in reading at the elementary level and is introducing new Advanced Placement courses in the high school.
The district is also taking some major steps forward in terms of technology.
“Our district is ready to go,” Hollister said. “We have distributed 1,200 new laptops as a part of our one-to-one implementation. Every student grade four to 12 will have a computer provided to them by the district.”
Hollister added that the major renovations at Brecknock Elementary, including updates to utilities, technology and a modest expansion of four classrooms, will continue throughout the school year.
Twin Valley has also moved ahead technology-wise. Pleis said the district has revamped its network, including updates to each school’s website.
“It allows teachers to create sites and then interact with students back and forth on homework, assignments and those kinds of things,” he said.
There has also been an influx of smart boards into the elementary centers and middle school, and the district plans to use that technology to emphasize its “Everyday Math” program, among other things.
On the extracurricular side of things, Twin Valley has also started a pay to play model for sports. Pleis said he feels it has been received well by the community, and parents understand the need for it to keep sports sustainable.
He added that school spirit events Raiderfest and Raise the Spirit will be taking place together Aug. 24, and the Third Annual Hungry Raider Chili Cook-Off to benefit the Community Education Foundation will be coming this fall.
“We’re looking forward to a good school year,” Pleis said. “We have to keep growing, and we have to keep offering our students the best that we can provide them.”